Pre-teaching vs. Reteaching with the Struggling Student


How many of us “reteach” a lesson or part of a lesson to students who didn’t grasp it the first time around?  Exactly.  Same.  That is what makes us good educators correct?  What if I said there was something we could do in our classrooms that would make you an even better educator than you already are? Pre-teach.  Pre-teaching vs. Reteaching with the struggling student can change an outcome for everyone involved.  Topics like growth mindset, time-saving, and a boost of confidence are a few that come to mind.  

I attended a professional development this summer on a new phonics curriculum.  Yes, exciting I know.  However, this one was slightly different.  In passing the instructor mentioned a phrase that stuck with me.  So much so that it inspired me to write this blog that you are reading.  “Pre-teach vs. Reteach”.   It was that simple.  

What does Reteaching mean? 

Re-teaching or “remediation” means just that… to teach again when someone doesn’t grasp the concept the first time.  It is a staple in any classroom.  With No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001), ‘reteaching’ is a concept that is engrained inside our minds.  We all want to ensure that our students learn, and are happy, safe, and healthy.  However, is reteaching doing a disservice? 

I am not saying throw reteaching out the window. Will some students need another lesson?  Absolutely!  Nothing wrong with that at all.  However, let’s take a scenario of a typical math lesson.  

Scenario 1.

Money, in particular, coin identification.  You taught an amazing lesson on coin identification.  Complete with a cute little song to help your students remember the coin name and value.  However, you notice there are three students who didn’t get it.  So what are your next steps? 

You would typically pull them in a small group, correct?  Reteach. You pull out all the coins again.  Perhaps slower this time.  I mean come on, you have a cute song! Remember?  You bring in some more manipulatives.  That will help.  Worst-case scenario, they still don’t understand it.  The best-case scenario is now they got it! 

However, either way, they know that the rest of the class mastered this days ago.  Also, since then, days passed with reteaching.  Unfortunately, you know as an educator that you already had to move on with the lesson, and the rest of the class is adding coins together now.  When do these struggling students ever catch up?  

Whether you are considering reteaching or pre-teaching, No Prep Centers are a great place to start!

What is Pre-Teaching?

Scenario 1 is a realization for me.  One that I experience every year.  Every subject.  Every lesson.  I know already going into the lesson which small group is going to struggle.  They struggled last month.  Last class.  Today.  You know what?  That’s okay!  We meet them where they are at.  However, I think we could make their school lives a bit more enjoyable and stress-free.  Just like Education to the Core wants to do with you, our Teaching Trailblazer! 

Pre-teach means teaching the concept, vocabulary, and language to the student(s) in preparation for academic activity. This is a huge strategy used within language programs and students within an ELL (English Language Learners) program who are still learning a language.  

What would happen if we “pre-taught” our lesson in advance to students we know that are at-risk or struggling?  That this conceived notion of “reteaching” occurs when we teach our whole-group main lesson.  Students are hearing vocabulary and ideas that were already taught to them.  Increasing exposure to the task, comfortability, and most importantly self-worth and a growth mindset.

Let’s jump back to the scenario from earlier. However, this time let’s change it up a bit. We are going to stick with the money/coin identification lesson.  

Scenario 2. 

You meet with a small group and introduce coins.  You show them manipulatives and teach a cute song about coins and value.  However, this time it is done a few days before the main lesson you were planning for the whole group.  This time when you teach the whole group lesson, these individuals may feel more relaxed and able to focus on the lesson.  Gosh, some of them may even raise their hand to answer a question during the lesson!  I mean how awesome is that?!?  

The worst-case scenario is that there are some students who didn’t master coin identity and value.  That’s okay.  The best scenario is that pre-teaching the topic to those struggling students helped them feel more at ease during the lesson.  

With pre-teaching, perhaps a student remembered one coin vs. zero with reteaching.   That’s a move in the right direction!  

Pre-Teaching vs. Reteaching

Well…what do you think? Are you more camping on the “reteach” side of the field?  Or perhaps you are like me and considering “pre-teaching”?  Am I saying that this is the solution for ALL struggling students?  Absolutely not!  

However, if a concept like “pre-teach” will make a student more comfortable and increase their growth mindset… I am ALL in!  We are already meeting with students in small groups, so let’s mix it up a bit and try something new. 

What can I Pre-Teach with Phonics?

These phonics resources will work great with the Pre-teaching method and even those times we will need to reteach concepts. 

I Spy Phonics

Looking to bring some fun into your small group lesson?  Pre-teach a phonics skill by playing a game!  A game of “I SPY”!  These I Spy Phonics worksheets are so fun and engaging that your students will be begging to complete them! 

Phonics Based Passages

Introduce and review all things phonics with these phonics-based passages!  They are great for small group lessons as well as additional individual practice.  Whether you are looking to pre-teach long vowels, short vowels, digraphs, or any other phonics skill these passages are a must in any lesson! 

Another bonus feature is that these passages also come in a digital version! 

Alphabet Foldable Booklets

Students struggling with letter identification?  These alphabet foldable booklets will offer students a peek into the letter and the sound that it makes within a mini-book that will easily fit into their hands and their minds. 

Phonics Poems

Phonics Poems are one of my personal favorite phonics resources from Education to the Core.  Each poem was created around a certain phonics skill, however, each poem features a comprehension component!  No matter the skill you are pre-teaching or reteaching with your struggling student, these poems will also build fluency and vocabulary, and strengthen listening/speaking skills.  

I Spy Early Literacy

Remember those “I Spy” phonics worksheets from earlier?  They are so engaging and fun that Education to the Core had to release more!  Let me introduce the I Spy Early Literacy worksheets!  An amazing intervention for beginning sounds and letters!  

Phonics Word Work

What kind of worksheet has at least 5 different activities on it?  Oh yeah…Phonics Word Work!!   Practice your phonics skills through a multi-sensory approach with hands-on activities, rainbow write, spin and write, letter boxes, and more!  

Sound Wall

Pre-teach, reteach, and teach daily using your Sound Wall.  This resource has it ALL and is more than just a “wall”.  Inside this resource not only are you able to use phoneme and grapheme cards, but real mouth articulation photos, teaching slides with audio, student worksheets, charts, desk cards, and more!

What can I Pre-Teach within Math?

1:1 Math Centers

Who said centers are just for 1:1 centers?  Bring the center activity to your small groups!  What a great way to pre-teach the topic by introducing it to your students in the group first.  Then the second time they will see the activity is in your math centers!?!  Students will feel so confident and will more likely be on task during your next center time activity! 

I Spy Math

Ready for a resource that will keep your student’s attention during math?  I Spy Math brings all the fun and excitement just like our I Spy Phonics and Early Literacy from above!  *Spoiler Alert*…there is even another “I Spy” resource to come!   

These math printables are a sure-fire hit among all the students!  

Math Printables 

These Math printables are purely no prep, just print and go!  They are the perfect addition to any small group pre-teach/reteach lesson.  They not only differentiate between the needs of each individual student but also give you different ways to teach the curriculum!  The perfect Math resource for this topic!

What can I Pre-Teach within Reading?

Sight Word Passages & Booklets

These easy, print-and-go booklets and passages are a great way to extend the practice of sight words with your students. Each booklet focuses on ONE word your kids can trace, color, and highlight to reinforce their understanding. Each sight word story includes picture cues & clues so your students can read these books independently.

Sight Word Menus

One thing I love to incorporate into my classroom is opportunities for hands-on activities.  These sight word menus fit perfectly into my vision of small groups.  Using a variety of manipulatives and items found around your classroom, your students can build the focus sight word of the lesson.

Literacy Centers

Just as the case for our 1:1 math centers, these literacy centers are a great introduction prior to having them in your literacy centers.  An entire year-long resource with non-seasonal monthly centers that you can continue to use.  With 24 Kindergarten centers, 120 First Grade centers, 120 Second Grade centers, and 40 Third Grade center options; you will guarantee yourself you’ll find what activity you are looking for! 

Sight Word Passages

Looking to improve sight word recognition as well as increase fluency?  Look no further!  Sight Word Passages make for engaging word work activities that are the perfect pair for interventions and enrichment.  

I Spy Hidden Sight Words

SURPRISE!  Another amazing “I Spy” resource!  Yes, they are THAT amazing to have them all on this list.  These brand new hidden sight words are a blast!  With the use of magnifying glasses, students will literally hunt for hidden sight words in each picture!  

Reading Passages 

With options for Practically First Grade, First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade these reading passages are a perfect method for differentiation!  Use these to build your students’ skills and have them show off proudly during that whole group lesson!  Building fluency and comprehension these passages are another great pairing for that small group lesson!

What can I Generally Pre-Teach with?

Monthly Packets

Monthly packets have it all!  Cross-curricular print-and-go activities are great for every part of your day!  No-prep printables each month that will keep your students engaged and learning.  Tons of pages of activities themed to fit each month!  You and your students will be set for the entire year!   

File Folder Games

Besides hands-on activities, I also love incorporating games into my routine.  File folder games will offer repetition of a variety of math and ELA concepts!  With 35 ELA games and 39 Math game options, you will be able to find the topic that you are planning on pre-teaching or reteaching.  They are also great for centers as well!

These engaging file folder games can easily assess students’ abilities, as well as students, learn game-playing skills (cooperation, taking turns, and being a good winner/loser).  All a win-win! 

Color By Code

There is a reason that this is the last one on this list.  You can call it the cherry on top of the sundae of all these amazing resources prior.  

Have you ever wished you could create exactly what you’re looking for in a color-by-code resource?  You choose the content you want to cover for your subject and grade level.  Completely editable and adaptable to fit whatever skill you are planning on pre-teaching/reteaching or teaching in general! 


What are your thoughts?  After I thought about it for a day after the professional development/training I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment.  It really makes sense when you think about it.  How about those resources!?!  There are tons here where you can pick and choose what works best for you and your students.  Or even better…grab a Premium Membership and you can have them all, whenever you wanted!  What will be the first resource on this list that you are going to pre-teach with?  Let us know in the comments below.  Also, I am ALWAYS interested in how other educators run and design their small groups!  So be sure to reach out and share!

Written By – Christopher Olson


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